Archive for research

wide reading pain

We know that people often have rather wide screens and suffer reading disruptions as a side effect of trying to read lines that are 10 inches wide (that is, between 20-50 words wide). While most people feel that’s uncomfortable, what they don’t realize is that they can easily resize the window to make the (word) wrapping much better for them.

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we need to think more about thinking

"To make better decisions, we need to think more about thinking."

–James Montier

Think Watson’s RED model of critical thinking’

Recognize Assumptions

This is the ability to separate fact from opinion. It is deceptively easy to listen to a comment or presentation and assume the information presented is true even though no evidence was given to back it up. Noticing and questioning assumptions helps to reveal information gaps or unfounded logic. Taking it a step further, when we examine assumptions through the eyes of different people (e.g., the viewpoint of different stakeholders), the end result is a richer perspective on a topic.

Evaluate Arguments

The art of evaluating arguments entails analyzing information objectively and accurately, questioning the quality of supporting evidence, and understanding how emotion influences the situation. Common barriers include confirmation bias, or allowing emotions-yours or others-to get in the way of objective evaluation. People may quickly come to a conclusion simply to avoid conflict. Being able to remain objective and sort through the validity of different positions helps people draw more accurate conclusions.

Draw Conclusions

People who possess this skill are able to bring diverse information together to arrive at conclusions that logically follow from the available evidence, and they do not inappropriately generalize beyond the evidence. Furthermore, they will change their position when the evidence warrants doing so. They are often characterized as having "good judgment" because they typically arrive at a quality decision.

5 characteristics of a critical thinker

A journalist taught me about critical thinking and writing/editing. It’s important to vet and uncover more than one side to a story. See if you or your business associates have one or more of these characteristics (adapted from the Wikipedia entry). Do you:

  1. raise important questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  2. gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  3. come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  4. think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, your assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  5. communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems; without being unduly influenced by others’ thinking on the topic.

These abilities are critical in business strategy — and in life. I particularly like the concept of suspending judgment.

How do you know?

These four words make a great jump-start to critical thinking. If it isn’t clear, ask, “How do you know?”

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do you want to be fast and sloppy?

“59% of American’s surf and watch TV at the same time” Nielsen report, and the numbers are increasing with every survey done. Smartphones provide connectivity options 24/7 everywhere.

Yet, multitasking allows you to be faster, and achieve sloppier results.

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frugal innovation


Being budget minded, focused on simplicity, challenging of the design & the processes and being aware of the implications of huge market sizes. Focus on customer.

“The term is quite commonly used in countries such as India or China to describe a specific kind of innovation which takes great care to minimise costs of innovation and cost of final product.

“Frugal innovation is not just about redesigning products; it involves rethinking entire production processes and business models. Companies need to squeeze costs so they can reach more customers, and accept thin profit margins to gain volume. Three ways of reducing costs are proving particularly successful.”

  • Contract out more work
  • Use existing technology in imaginative ways
  • Apply mass-production technique in new and unexpected areas

The Economist’s special report on innovation in emerging markets

Jeff Bezos;

Q: The company has a reputation for frugality. Does that apply to the way you innovate?
A: I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out. When we were [first] trying to acquire customers, we didn’t have money to spend on ad budgets. So we created the associates program, [which lets] any Web site link to us, and we give them a revenue share. We invented one-click shopping so we could make check-out faster. Those things didn’t require big budgets. They required thoughtfulness and focus on the customer.

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do you have an arousal empathy gap?

would you like some cake?

Best intentions fall by the way side in the heat of the moment.
Ambitious plans seem impossible in the cold light of day.

Our ability to evaluate and make decisions changes depending on our state of mind, on our involvement or arousal. Better known as the hot-cold empathy gap.

“A hot-cold empathy gap is a cognitive bias in which a person underestimates the influences of visceral drives…”

Converting free users in Freemium or Trial products could benefit from striking while the iron is hot, and offering tempting opportunities while the user or player are ‘hot’.

from Nudge, by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein.

“Two factors must be introduced in order to understand the cashew phenomenon: temptation and mindlessness. Human beings have been aware of the concept of temptation at least since the time of Adam and Eve, but for purposes of understanding the value of nudges, that concept needs elaboration. What does it mean for something to be "tempting"?

“…temptation is easier to recognize than to define. Our preferred definition requires recognizing that people’s state of arousal varies over time… We will call something ‘tempting’ if we consume more of it when hot than when cold.

“…Most people realize that temptation exists, and they take steps to overcome it. …For most of us, however, self-control issues arise because we underestimate the effect of arousal.

“Self-control problems can be illuminated by thinking about an individual as containing two semiautonomous selves, a far-sighted "Planner" and a myopic "Doer." You can think of the Planner as speaking for your Reflective System, or the Mr Spock lurking within you, and the Doer as heavily influenced by the Automatic System, or everyone’s Homer Simpson. The Planner is trying to promote your long-term welfare but must cope with the feelings, mischief, and strong will of the Doer, who is exposed to the temptations that come with arousal. … Some parts of the brain get tempted, and other parts are prepared to enable us to resist temptation by assessing how we should react to the temptation.”

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it is what you think you see as much as what you actually see…

#1 We do not attend to everything that we see. Visual perception is selective, as it must, for awareness of everything would overcome us. Our attention is often drawn to contrasts to the norm.

#2 Our eyes are drawn to familiar patterns. We see what we know and what we expect.

#3 Memory plays an important part in human cognition, but working memory is extremely limited.

Thinking with our Eyes, from Now You See It by Stephen Few.

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do you have mimetic desires?

green eye


Fashion, trends and fads all owe something to our natural instincts to want what other want or have. At a basic level this instinct is probably something of a survival and learning mechanism. Today, it is hugely important in economics, market movements, popular culture or the polarization of sales (the dip vs the long tail).

René Girard

Far from being autonomous, our desire for a certain object is always provoked by the desire of another person — the model — for this same object. This means that the relationship between the subject and the object is not direct: there is always a triangular relationship of subject, model, and object.”

Everyone holds firmly to the illusion of the authenticity of one’s own desires

Peter Thiel of PayPal & Facebook;

“Thiel’s philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel’s virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook.”

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novelty seeking zombies


We can easily become slaves to novelty, especially in the form of shiny technological toys that push novelty to us every hour of the day.

“…The brain is built to ignore the old and focus on the new….
Novelty is probably one of the most powerful signals to determine what we pay attention to in the world.”

“Researchers have found that novelty causes a number of brain systems to become activated, and foremost among these is the dopamine system…
…research shows that dopamine is more like the "gimme more" neurotransmitter.”

“…the role of dopamine is not in the pleasure that one may get from the drug, but in establishing the craving that keeps one coming back for more…
When dopamine is released, it is a signal to the brain that is it now time to start learning what is going on.”

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i is popular

“I” is the most popular word at the start of a tweet, and is the 2nd most popular word used on Twitter.

Only ~10% of tweets contain a question

This compares to general advice on good blogging, which recommends that readers prefer less “I”, and the human brain response well, and better remembers intriguing questions.

Are we becoming more narcissistic?

Source Oxford English Corpus

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does multitasking wither your capabilities?


Is multitasking causing a change in people’s capabilities? By multitasking, do you make yourself less capable… of multitasking, and anything else that requires concentration, flow or focus.

"The shocking discovery of this research is that [high multitaskers] are lousy at everything that’s necessary for multitasking," Professor Nass said.

"The irony here is that when you ask the low multitaskers, they all think they’re much worse at multitasking and the high multitaskers think they’re gifted at it."

“But at the very least, he said, multitaskers should be told that they are bad at multitasking.”

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learned behaviour or lazy?


“…children ages 11-14. The young people who used their phones more often- with the setting that completed words automatically (predictive texting), completed tests quicker, but with a larger number of mistakes.

…results showed predictive texting may be teaching children to act fast, while placing less emphasis on specificity and accuracy.”

And this behaviour transfers in to other areas of life.

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tips for digital distribution

  • Choose a project that you can complete – create something that you can do quickly
  • Don’t get caught up in engine building or grand designs
  • You don’t always need to innovate
  • Work hard, but find an idea that’s fun to work hard on
  • Don’t expect your game to be a hit, and move on if it doesn’t fly
  • It’s easier to keep the momentum on an existing success than to create a new one
  • There is no magic formula to making a successful game – pay attention to your app and think about ways to incrementally improve your game and approach
  • You need to be noticed
  • Work the community – it’s your community, you work it
  • Implementing user requests go a long way – listen and respond

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imaginary friends are good for you


“Whether re-telling a short fictional story (snip) to a puppet, or telling a story about a real experience they’d had in the last year, the children with a past or present imaginary friend tended to use more dialogue, and to provide more information about time, place and causal relations, thus providing richer stories.”

“Is it easier to talk to your online buddies than your friends out there in the "real world?" Do you feel like you know more about what’s happening in the lives of your Facebook and MySpace friends than with those who don’t have accounts or don’t bother to update them?”

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how do you find your digital content?

AdMob data on “How do iPhone users discover apps?”

62% search for a specific type of app (not clear if this is by name or type/genre)

60% browse through top ranked apps

46% word of mouth recommendation

20% see an ad while using another app

19% press/news or blog

10% a brand introduces an app and reaches out to me

13% other

Suggesting that a remarkable quality, enabling word of mouth matters.

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shut your eyes, and listen to the emotion

“…neuroscientists have discovered that a brain centre involved in sensing emotion and fear called the amygdala kicks into action when volunteers listen to scary music with eyes closed.

“A lot of time we do like to close our eyes when we listen to music, we feel like this is a more powerful experience,” says Talma Hendler, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, who led the new brain imaging study.

Shutting your eyes heightens people’s emotional responses to the outside world…”


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when do you stop living for the moment?

“Youngsters tend to live for the moment whilst older folks are more concerned about their futures.”

“A key difference emerged between participants who were aged thirteen and younger versus those aged sixteen and older, with the older group being more future oriented. There were no age-related differences among participants aged thirteen or less, or among participants aged sixteen or more, whilst fourteen and fifteen-year-olds were mixed…”

The younger age group tends to favour immediate reward, while the mid-adolescent & older age groups tend to value immediate rewards less.

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does your gut listen & believe everything it hears?


Yes. Your sub conscious gut listens to everything you hear, and it takes most things at face value. Your brain has evolved to form snap judgements, using a rule of ‘appearance equals reality’ to speed up reaction times. Very useful when making life or death decisions about predators stalking you through the savannah grasses.

Your inner voice or ego chatterbox, twitters away full of undermining self criticism. Yet your sub conscious gut listens… and believes it just like any other input. (Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway® by Susan Jeffers)

While your sub conscious believes what it hears, your conscious mind will often try to temper and modify your gut’s opinions.

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are your eyes bigger than your belly?

eye belly

So much time and energy goes in to designing, implementing, testing and releasing software features that only a minority of people use.

“Only 20% of a mobile phone’s features are used regularly; up to a quarter remain completely undiscovered”

from a study by WDSGlobal

1 billion apps downloaded from the App Store, yet most go used or unexplored. Our appetite is there, and for whatever reason our hunger fades quickly.

“Pinch Media drawing on iPhone analytics data highlights that (only) ~20% of user’s ever return to use an application the day after it is installed. There are many ways to interpret this data: the harshest being that ~80% of user’s are so unimpressed with their application that they never return to it.”

In some cases breadth of function is important, although no excuse for complexity.

“A lot of software developers are seduced by the old "80/20" rule. It seems to make a lot of sense: 80% of the people use 20% of the features. So you convince yourself that you only need to implement 20% of the features, and you can still sell 80% as many copies.

Unfortunately, it’s never the same 20%. Everybody uses a different set of features.”

Is featuritis driven by fear?

“Fear of being perceived as having fewer features than your competitors. Fear that you won’t be viewed as complete. Fear that people are making purchase decisions off of a checklist, and that he who has the most features wins (or at the least, that he who has the fewest features definitely loses). Fear of losing key clients who say, "If you don’t add THIS… I’ll have to go elsewhere."

Be brave. And besides, continuing to pile on new features eventually leads to an endless downhill slide toward poor usability and maintenance. A negative spiral of incremental improvements. Fighting and clawing for market share by competing solely on features is an unhealthy, unsustainable, and unfun way to live.

Be the "I Rule" product, not the "This thing I bought does everything, but I suck!" product.”

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variety of experiences in 1 product

Peter Shafer, of Harris Interactive presented some interesting findings. In a survey of 1300 kids aged 8-18:

- Ease of use is important when it comes to toys, especially among girls
- Kids see the learning value in toys, but it’s not their primary objective
- They want a variety of experiences from one product
- Kids are very brand and platform aware. It’s not specific games for them, but rather Nintendo or Wii.

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek psych professor, Temple University and author of Einstein Never Used Flashcards, told the industry: “Please guys, take brain growth off the packaging. Bilingualism from a mobile? No, that doesn’t happen”

Parent-child interaction is key to play, several experts said. Deborah Linebarger of the University of Pennsylvania recommends that being built into products.

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the lost art of play

“Play,” incidentally, is a mysterious activity children engage in when not compelled to spend every hour under adult supervision, taking soccer or piano lessons or practicing vocabulary words with computerized flashcards.

All in all, “going out to play” worked out well for kids. As the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg testified to Congress in 2006, “Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles. … Play helps children develop new competencies … and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.” But here’s the catch: Those benefits aren’t realized when some helpful adult is hovering over kids the whole time.

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